How We Work With Human Rights in Turkey

Students From Around the World Go to Human Rights Summer Course

Nearly 60 students from universities all around the world gathered in Turkey recently for the third annual summer school course on human rights.

The school is a joint initiative among the Istanbul University Faculty of Law, Leiden University Law School, and Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

This year the theme focused on the dynamism and distinctions in human rights law to help students gain insight into the state of human rights law today, where you see claims of universality of human rights (that they belong to all) in a global context rife with contrasts.

“RWI’s Turkey Programme aims to achieve increased knowledge and skills at its partner institutions to design, deliver and implement human rights programmes/courses and training activities for external actors,” says Gamze Rezan Sarışen, Programme Officer at RWI’s office in Turkey. “The summer school is one way we achieve this goal.”

Students participated in interactive lectures and working groups where they focused on specific themes and presented their findings at the close of the school.

The issues students discussed included:

  • How has the world changed since the first formulation of the parameters of human rights law and has human rights law itself kept up with the changes? Who is responsible for further change? Is it legitimate that this is left to (international) courts to do so in their ‘transjudicial communications’ or do international treaty-makers need to step in where substantive or procedural ‘modernization’ may be required?
  • Should the aim be to truly globalize human rights law, or is the reality that societies are too different and that the same set of rules and rights cannot successfully apply in all places? If so, how should lines be drawn, on the level of ‘continental drift,’ on the national level, or should shared human experiences and ideologies be the primary criterion instead of territorial proximity?
  • If dynamism and distinctions are recognized as key features of modern human rights law, who then can lay claims to them? Are persons protected by a particular brand of human rights law simply because they belong to a certain society, or are there human rights for which distinctions should not be allowed? In an increasingly mobile world, do human rights obligations of state and non-state actors alter as they pass through different (geographical) domains and interact with different peoples, or should extra-territorial obligations be the same as they are at ‘home?’
  • Who finally is responsible for people living under circumstances of dire crisis that have been displaced from their homes or have insufficient access to justice to even to begin to exercise basic human rights? Is it the international community at large and if so, how should responsibilities be apportioned?

The summer course on human rights also featured RWI’s Senior Researcher Alejandro Feuntes who led a discussion with students around cultural diversity and human rights from a comparative regional approach with a focus on the Inter-American Human Rights System.